Friends of the Elephant Seal is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about elephant seals and other marine life and to teaching stewardship for the ocean off the central coast of California
The Northern Elephant Seal, Mirounga angustirostris, is an extraordinary marine mammal. It spends eight to ten months a year in the open ocean, diving 1000 to 5800 feet deep for periods of fifteen minutes to two hours, and migrating thousands of miles, twice a year, to its land based rookery for birthing, breeding, molting and rest. The Piedras Blancas rookery, on Highway 1 seven miles north of San Simeon on the California Central Coast, is home to about 17,000 animals. The area is open for viewing every day of the year and there is no admission fee or reservation required. It is located 14 miles north of Cambria and 89 miles south of Monterey at 35° 39' 48" N and 121° 15' 28" W. The viewing areas are accessable to wheel chairs.
If there is something you want to know about elephant seals, or about other marine mammals that inhabit this area of the California coast, please ASK US. Click for current information on Weather at the rookery. To know what is happening in the rookery at this time of year, click HERE.
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All the seals come to the rookery to molt, and the adult seals come a second time for the birthing and breeding in the winter. Why is it the juveniles come to the rookery for a month in the fall? Definitive answers about "why" with respect to animal behavior are difficult to come by but there are plausible arguments for the juveniles coming to the beaches this time of year. First, as an adult, they will have to have the pattern of two visits each year. Second, their time on the bluff gives them additional experience with fasting and with being on land - both important aspects of their life. Finally, the time on land strengthens their skeleton because, in the ocean, there is no gravitational stress on their skeleton. The stress they experience on land promotes bone growth and stronger bones will also be important to them as adults.
The juveniles are fun to watch. The young males enjoy sparring, often in the shallow rocky areas off shore. That play, characteristic of male mammals of many species, humans included, is pretty clearly fun and, certainly in the case of elephant seals, it serves to prepare them for the dominance battles as adults.
Seals in the rookery often appear to visitors as very "lazy." They certainly know how to relax. It is important to realize, however, that they are all fasting - no food and no water - for their time in the rookery. Activity greatly increases their metabolism and hence their consumption of energy resources that they brought on shore with them. It is a measure of the importance to the seals of that youthful play that they indulge in it at all.
Friends of the Elephant Seal
PO Box 490
Cambria, CA 93428
Phone: (805) 924-1628
Fax: (805) 924-1629